New Testament Stuff I Need To Know: Session 6

Chapter 8: Two Hidden Treasures   

Learning Group Discussion: 2/12-2/18

Reading Assignment Outline

Hebrews: Preaching as Theology

  • Author: anonymous, excellent Greek, rhetoric of exposition and exhortation, use of Torah
  • Date: between 60 and 90CE
  • Context: maybe ethnically Hellenistic Jews, also Christians,
  • faith community in danger of “falling away
  • superiority of Jesus to God’s earlier agents
  • engages the symbolism of the ancient cult, especially sacrifice
  • merging of biblical cosmology and Platonic categories (material/ideal, earth/heaven)
  • Christ is the perfect mediator between God and humans because he is (ontological) both divine and human, and because Christ’s mediating role is not static but dynamic (moral). p88
  • Christ represent humanity as its priest forever
  • cloud of witnesses
  • Jesus is both the cause of salvation and the model of obedient faith
6thC lunette mosaic, Abel & Melchizedek sacrificing - Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna
6th-century mosaic in the Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy, depicting Abel and Melchisedec making a sacrifice on an altar. Christians see scenes like this one as foreshadowing the Eucharistic ritual.

James: powerful moral exhortation

  • Author: maybe James, brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem
  • Date: maybe between 57CE (response to Romans 3:28) and 62CE (martyrdom of James)
  • Context: possibly a sermon, circular letter to “the twelve tribes of the dispersion”
  • Paul: “righteousness by faith” / James: “faith without works is dead
  • James and Paul agree that belief must be expressed in behavior
  • James’ emphasis on moral dimension of discipleship
  • God enters into friendship with humans
  • James makes use of the entire spectrum of Scripture: sayings of Jesus, OT wisdom, law, and prophets
Icon depicting St James, brother of Jesus

Discussion Questions

  1. What learning from Hebrews did you find most helpful to your faith journey?
  2. What learning from James did you find most helpful to your faith journey?
  3. Which author speaks stronger to our age and how?

Scripture Passage and Prayer

James 5:13-16

  • Settle into a comfortable sitting position. Be still and quiet.
  • With eyes closed, slowly say, “I see and receive the love and joy with which God gazes at me as I gaze at God.”
  • Remain still and quiet with eyes closed for awhile.
  • Open eyes and slowly read the Scripture passage, pausing after every verse.
  • Notice what words or phrases capture your curiosity.
  • Notice what words or phrases touch your heart.
  • Notice what words or phrases cause you to consider a specific act of faith.
  • Close with a sentence of gratitude.